Today, Marion Bartoli has 16,377 Twitter followers. Sabine Lisicki has 137, 043. Marion Bartoli is a Wimbledon Champion. Sabine Lisicki isn’t. I like Bartoli. I like Lisicki. In fact, I pretty much like all professional tennis players. They’re professional tennis players! What’s not to like? But yesterday, in the Wimbledon women’s finals, I wanted Bartoli to win. Why? Firstly, she’s a great tennis player. Secondly, until recently she didn’t have any sponsorship. Thirdly, because I knew that it would piss off stupid people – and it’s important to piss off stupid people.
A few years ago Bartoli was asked by an interviewer why she didn’t have any sponsors. “I’m probably not blonde enough, not tall enough, and not thin enough,” she replied. This was despite being the number 11 seed and having a higher IQ than Einstein. In women’s tennis, the best players often don’t make the most money. Here’s why:
For some reason, a lot of people still seem to think women’s tennis is an X-factor-style hunt for a Nuts magazine cover star and get pretty angry when they’re given someone who’s simply brilliant at sport. While Bartoli’s Wimbledon win was unpredictable (given that Serena Williams was the favourite), the tirade of abuse that followed it on Twitter wasn’t.
Along with plenty of talk of rape and violence, that boring phrase tagged on to so many supposedly acceptable conversations about the Williams sisters was also wheeled out: “She looks like a man.” Not that it’s relevant, but neither Bartoli nor the Williams sisters look anything like men: athletes, yes; men, no. The Williams sisters’ colourful fashion, hairstyles and nail art are not what I’d imagine the people behind the tweets would describe as masculine (although, you never know…).
Bartoli looks like she’s just thrown on a white T-shirt, but then so does Andy Murray. I like the fact she has a grey headband that could have come out of my sock drawer in the same way I like the fact that Murray’s bedroom, as a teenager, looked like a bombsite. It makes me feel like we have something in common, even though we don’t.
Despite being the acceptable face of tennis for internet trolls, Sabine Lisicki isn’t referred to any more pleasantly. Rape and violence seem to be a reoccurring theme whether those advocating them love or hate the sportswoman they’re referring to – not that, I’m sure, Lisicki or Bartoli give a shit what a load of repressed losers furiously pounding their computers have to say.
I show The Other One a list of some of the Bartoli tweets. He is surprised that they are all by young men, rather than older people stuck in a bygone era – people like BBC commentators John Inverdale and Simon Reed, who have been criticised for making derogatory remarks about female players. I’m not surprised. Young people can be idiots too. At least there’s the hope the one day they’ll grow up – or that everyone will harass them on Twitter until they explode in a ball of bitter, all-consuming women hating rage. Their usernames are up there. Why not drop them a line.